The History of Sports Betting in New Zealand
It stands to reason that a colony predominantly comprising of British people, that horseracing would soon become a thing of interest. It dates back as far as 1835, with the first thoroughbred horse coming to New Zealand in 1840. Horse racing was said to have begun in the military barracks with soldiers using their own horses to race with their officers acting as officials. It quickly became a hugely popular recreational activity for locals with races being featured at the first anniversary celebrations in various places – e.g. Aukland, Nelson, Wellington, Otago and Cantebury.
By the late 1870’s however the sport had evolved into the country’s most popular recreational pastime with crowds of up to 30 000 packing major race meetings. People from all walks of life attended and saw it as a way to get out and have a day’s fun, with the added thrill of the possibility of making a fortune! And so, sports gambling in New Zealand was born. The introduction of totalisators to the race tracks further increased the sport’s popularity. These machines were designed to calculate the sum of the bets placed on a particular race, and then distribute the winnings to the punters who had wagered on the race. Up until that point bookmakers had dominated the betting aspect of the races.
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Obstacle of Sports Gambling in New Zealand
Towards the end of the 19th century, Protestant Church groups began to apply pressure to the government to ban gambling. This resulted in the Gambling Act of 1908, which effectively banned all gambling apart from horse racing, but also limited punters to only being able to place bets when they were at the actual race track for the event. Naturally with horse racing being one of the most popular recreational activities at the time, people still found ways to get around the law, predominantly with the assistance of bookies. The bookies had been banned from operating at race tracks, however many of them set up shop under false fronts – renting rooms and connecting with each other and insiders at the track via telephone and radio. This allowed them to place bets on behalf of their customers remotely, which opened up a huge underground business. The law stated that bets could only be placed if the punter was at the race – but the bookies found a way round this by placing bets on their customers behalves from all around the country.
Regulation of Sports Betting in New Zealand
By 1951, the government realized that they were missing out on substantial revenue, and formed the first Totalisator Agency Board (TAB), who’s purpose was to regulate the industry. All TAB’s were originally government owned, however in later years they have become privatized. The founding of TAB effectively ceased the illegal bookies influence on sports betting in New Zealand.
Sports Betting in New Zealand Today
Although TAB regulated the sports betting in New Zealand, many types of gambling remained illegal over the years. Slowly but surely however amendments to the laws were made, and finally in the 1990’s the first casinos were opened. This was followed by TAB permitting fixed odds and sports betting in 1996. Today, although the New Zealand Racing board holds the monopoly on most online betting in New Zealand, there are over 640 other TAB outlets across the country who offer wagers on rugby, cricket and even the unlikely sport of sheep shearing!
Future of Sports Betting in New Zealand
With technology increasing at the speed at which it does these days, the internet holds the future of Sports Betting in New Zealand. There is currently a stance from the New Zealand government that it will not permit any more online operators, however it does not forbid offshore sites. This means that as a sports better you can pick and choose from a variety of the best international sports betting sites in the world, as long as you have an internet connection.